Satisfaction and delight

2013-06-10 00:00

THE Springboks were satisfied and the Samoans delighted after they won their Incoming Series Test matches at King’s Park on Saturday.

The Springboks started and ended impressively to beat Italy 44-10 while the Samoans’ powerful running and physical defence brought them an historic first-ever win (27-17) over Scotland.

The ambitious Test double-header at King’s Park was another first for world rugby but the ticket prices (adult R450) dulled the public’s enthusiasm and the stadium was less than half full (crowd attendance 23 666) for the historic occasion.

The quadrangular series now moves to Nelspruit’s Mbombela Stadium on Saturday when the Springboks will play Scotland and Samoa face Italy. The two top-ranked sides will then meet at Loftus Versfeld on June 22 in the final of the series.

The Springboks, looking organised and surprisingly inventive, dominated the opening quarter against Italy, winning the collisions and a series of seven unanswered penalties. Almost inevitably, they drove bustling hooker Adriaan Strauss over for a try from a lineout before man of the match Bryan Habana counter-attacked from a poor Italian clearance and sent centre JJ Englebrecht in for a try. Morné Steyn kicked both conversions and a brace of penalties for a 20-0 half-time lead.

The Italians returned for the second half with four changes to their pack and played with greater intensity and purpose, dominating the third quarter of the game. Centre Alberto Sgarbi rounded off a sustained attack seven minutes into the second half (while wing Bjorn Basson was in the sin-bin for a high tackle) and Alberto di Bernardo kicked the conversion and a penalty.

Such was Italy’s superiority in this period that it seemed the Test would go to the wire. But Steyn kicked for territory and, in the words of captain Jean de Villiers, “steadied the ship with a penalty” before the Boks finished strongly with three tries in the final 15 minutes.

The first, an excellent 50-metre effort by Habana — cutting back against the flow of the cover defence after 65 minutes — would have brought back dark memories for the King’s Park crowd of his match-winning effort for the Bulls against the Sharks in the 2007 Super Rugby final. Neat passing by fullback Willie le Roux and Basson provided De Villiers with a clear run to the line before Basson intercepted as the Italians moved the ball under pressure and ran 60 metres for the Boks’ fifth try.

Earlier, Samoa outscored Scotland by three tries to one in their 27-17 win. The Samoans started strongly, but the Scots came back well in the second half to lead 17-14 following a Sean Lamont try. Samoa’s powerful, 117-kg wing Alesana Tuilagi bashed through Scotland’s defence to score the crucial try and James So`oialo’s boot took them out of reach.

“We allowed them to come back into the game and that was disappointing,” Scotland coach Scott Johnson said. “We had a couple of youngsters out there and there is only one way to learn and grow experience.”

But there was no hiding the joy in the Samoan camp.

“We are very happy to beat Scotland for the first time,” said Samoan captain Paul Williams. “That is our aim when playing against Tier 1 teams. We have taken some good steps forward today.”

Scotland now face the Boks in Nel­spruit on Saturday and they could be without their captain and backrower Kelly Brown, experienced prop Euan Murray and debutant hooker Pat McArthur to injury.

“They could leave the tour,” Johnson said of the injured players. “We will have to probably bring in some replacements. There were a lot of battered and bruised bodies after the game.”

Scotland are without a couple of key players who are with the British Lions players and Saturday’s loss was the first in nine internationals against Samoa.

SCORERS

South Africa 44 — Tries: Adriaan Strauss, JJ Engelbrecht, Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers, Bjorn Basson. Conversions: Morné Steyn (4), Pat Lambie. Penalties: Morné Steyn (3). Italy 10 — Try: Alberto Sgarbi. Conversions: Alberto di Bernardo. Penalty: Di Bernardo.

Samoa 27 — Tries: James So`oialo, Alesana Tuilagi (2). Conversions: James So`oialo (3).Penalties: So`oialo (2). Scotland 17 — Try: Sean Lamont. Conversion: Greig Laidlaw Penalties: Laidlaw (4).

OTHER INTERNATIONALS

United States 12 — 15 Ireland

Argentina 3 — 32 England

New Zealand 23 — 13 France

Japan 18 — 22 Wales

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